Copycat Syndrome

I'm often asked why, despite years of press and trading and repeated growth spurts followed by major venture capital investments, Bitcoin-based technology remains impractical for daily use. Why isn't it driving global payment infrastructure? Why hasn't it supplanted existing micro-loan facilities? Where is the promised 24x7, 365, global replacement for cash?

The answer: Bitcoin companies are, by and large, focused on copying old infrastructure, instead of building infrastructure that makes sense for Bitcoin. It still needs a lot of the basic financial infrastructure that exists for other commodities, like ways to hedge price risk, quickly move large amounts between the underlying and the traditional banking system, and pay for goods and services easily.

LedgerX solves the first two problems. Every day, more and more customers use our platform to protect against price risk, or convert between dollars and cryptocurrency at lightning speed.

But most players in the Bitcoin space look to older market structures for inspiration. We see FIX API integrations on exchanges that don't have the book depth to support even moderately sized trades at consistent prices. Trading shops use FIX's inefficient hub-and-spoke design because it's how markets grew up, not because it's the future.

We see complex fee schedules that mimic the equities world, colocation efforts to support high-frequency trading - in a space that doesn't yet have the liquidity to support it. In fact, the space doesn't even have federally regulated spot exchanges. The closest analogue to a regulated spot exchange in the U.S. is probably our Next-Day BTC product.

None of these efforts make sense. It's driven by copycat syndrome: the Silicon Valley tendency to product-manage the potential out of what you're building. Hold a bunch of meetings, look for precedent, then bring in the engineers to build it.

We say: Bitcoin is new, revolutionary and unlike any other commodity to date. There is no precedent.

Yet, to improve upon prior art, you have to know it intimately. To build a better motorcycle, you have to be Robert Pirsig’s proverbial mechanic from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But the Silicon Valley bubble often distorts what philosophy teaches us. If you haven't been a trader, you probably shouldn't be driving trading API design. If you're a lawyer, you probably shouldn't be developing a cybersecurity compliance program. And if you're an engineer, you probably shouldn't be determining what constitutes "compliance" at your company.

There's always room for someone with an outside perspective to throw out the old and build the new. But that doesn't mean you copy the status quo and apply it to Bitcoin. It means you start from first principles and question everything. For us, this has meant building a more social trading platform, instead of building yet another faceless central limit order book.

At LedgerX, we don't copy the old. We build market structures that make sense for our customers - period. No policy, procedure, API, design pattern, fee structure or trade type from traditional markets will make its way into our product, unless it directly benefits our customers. If you find yourself doing "product management" instead of product design, you may have copycat syndrome.

If our approach sounds interesting, join us to build a future defined not by PMs sitting in a room looking for precedent, but by first-principles thinking.

- Zach